Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus – Campaign Cash

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Virginia candidates for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe (left) and Republican Ken Cuccinelli (right), talk during a forum at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., prior to the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Virginia candidates for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe (left) and Republican Ken Cuccinelli (right), talk during a forum at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., prior to the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Editor’s Note: Following our posting of this essay, we received a letter from Gary M. Broadbent, Assistant General Counsel and Media Director for Murray Energy Corporation. Our counsel responded and we have received further correspondence from Mr. Broadbent.

If you want to see how grossly money can distort democracy, just go to the state of Virginia, where there are no limits on how big a check can be written for statewide office. Groups and individuals from outside the Old Dominion are taking full advantage, pouring millions into a governor’s race they see as a dry run for the tactics they’ll use in the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential race – sort of the way the Spanish civil war turned out to be a testing ground for many of the deadly weapons of World War II.

Billionaires like environmentalist Tom Steyer on the left and the Koch Brothers on the right are placing their bets, but as they say at the track, the horses they’re backing are just a couple of hay burners. Once the home of Washington and Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry, Virginia now has a choice between two mediocrities slavishly devoted to their wealthy contributors.

The Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, has been in training for years as courtier to the rich. He has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the Democratic National Committee, which he chaired for four years and the campaigns of his – Best Friends Forever – Bill and Hillary Clinton, who now are shaking down donors for him. Along the way, according to The Washington Post, this gregarious bagman used government programs, his huge Rolodex of political connections and wealthy investors from both parties to enrich himself. He organized a company to build electric cars and promoted it to investors with a prospectus featuring photographs and ample references to his Clinton ties. He even got the former President to show up at the opening of the plant in Mississippi, along with that state’s former Republican governor, Haley Barbour, who made his fortune as a lobbyist in Washington for the tobacco industry.

Strange bedfellows, these crony capitalists – you may remember that Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham was involved, too, searching out foreign investors for the electric cars. When the spotlight of scrutiny crossed their path, McAuliffe resigned from the company, which is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Washington Post also reports that one of McAuliffe’s top twenty donors – at $120,000 — is the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, which issues flags of convenience to shipping companies that want to dodge taxes and labor regulations and that McAuliffe invested in an alleged insurance scam that stole identities from the terminally ill. His campaign says that like other investors, McAuliffe was deceived. The fellow in charge of the scheme donated more than $25,000 the last time McAuliffe ran for governor, in 2009. Hmmm…

In a recent debate, his Republican opponent, state attorney general and right wing zealot Ken Cuccinelli, said that if McAuliffe’s elected, they’ll have to change the state’s motto from “Sic Semper Tyrannis” to “Quid Pro Quo.” That’s Latin for you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

But Cuccinelli is in no position to talk. The candidate was drawn into that Virginia money scandal in which Jonnie R. Williams, Sr., CEO of Star Scientific, a company that manufactures dietary supplements, showered lavish presents and perks on the current governor and his wife. Cuccinelli also received a sprinkling of Williams’ largesse. He recently donated the value of what he says he got — $18,000 – to charity.

What’s more, his donor list includes considerable checks from big tobacco and big coal, including Murray Energy Corporation, which has often been fined for endangering the health and safety of its miners. Last year, its boss, Bob Murray, was discovered insisting that employees contribute time and money to his favorite anti-regulatory candidates – including Mitt Romney – or else.

Now Cuccinelli’s touting a major tax cut for the rich, with a plan that, according to the liberal Center for American Progress, would give 47 percent of a proposed tax reduction to the top five percent of Virginians. The state would lose nearly a billion and a half dollars in revenues so the rich can be even richer.

Not surprising, Cuccinelli’s a major climate change denier, as well as a fractious opponent of Obamacare, a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage. He once wanted to make it legal for employers to fire an employee if they were heard speaking Spanish. No wonder he’s the favorite of Citizens United – yes, that Citizens United, the right wing group that got the conservatives on the Supreme Court to give corporations the same free speech rights as real people.

So come Election Day, pity the voters of Virginia. Whether they choose the glad-handing Democrat or the self-righteous Republican, once again, the real winner will be Big Money.

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  • Kim Hislop

    these being the two choices…I think Virginia should go governorless

  • Milton E. Findley

    One is driven by money, the other by hatred, and there is no real issue in my mind about who to vote for.

  • Anonymous

    I assume both are already millionaires due to their service to our government..gulp!

  • Strawman411

    As Bill and Michael implied, this is the state of American electoral politics writ small.

    Well-heeled (funded) candidates from both wings of the duopoly — enabled by an electorate either willfully ignorant or innocent of basic critical thinking skills — by employing largely irrelevant, divisive buzzwords/phrases continue the charade that it makes any quantifiable difference to us 99% which team is in charge.

    Too bad there’s no rational third party option extant. Libertarians? Don’t make me laugh. Anyone who can’t see the gaping holes in Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism” as it relates to a civilized society, or who otherwise demonstrates utter contempt for the ancient concept of The Commons, shouldn’t be let out of the house without a note pinned to his shirt.

    I don’t know if it is even constitutionally possible, but somehow, some way, we must strangle private money’s influence on elections. The alternatives are terrible to contemplate.

  • Arm of Keaau

    Or know nothing about the gentleman. (_: FBI

  • Arm of Keaau

    It sounds as if they already are. (_: FBI

  • Dennis Sweitzer

    Is the choice between someone who is profiteering off of reality? Or denying reality?
    Climate change, resource depletion, pollution, healthcare costs are all reality….

  • Raymond Moser

    Give me the Democrat over the anti, anti. anti-everything fellow.

  • Gene Conway

    ELECTION FINANCE REFORM! Force all contributions for federal offices into a pool to be used to publish pertinent information about all contenders to the public.

  • Terri EC Mom5

    “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild

  • Terri EC Mom5

    I’ll take Sally, you take Sue–there is no difference between the two.

  • Ms_Phillips

    They have the MONEY!

  • Ms_Phillips

    How will you ever get that bill through both houses of Congress?

  • Ms_Phillips

    It’s constitutionally possible but not w the Congress or Supreme Court we have.

  • Glasshalful

    I vote with Strawman411 — you can boil it down to 2 ideals: ethical action and personal integrity — Seen any lately?

  • dcpoopicker

    I’m not sure what your problem with big coal or big tobacco is

  • Arm of Keaau

    Living about 5,000 miles from the state in question, not only am I not aware of the gentlemen, my response was to the article and the author who neglected to inform his readers of the third party candidate. Release the tension you seem to be storing in your ‘okole. (_:

  • Connie Snyder

    Libertarians are Tea Partiers that prefer anarchy to Jesus. So it’s glad hander, self-righteous Teahadist, or “We don’t need no stinkin’ government” libertarian for Virginia. Americans need smart, civic-minded, honest leaders. Now how do we get one to run for office with the money to have a fighting chance of winning?

  • Arm of Keaau

    No apology needed. I blame our media outlets for not supplying enough information for those of us outside Mayberry to be informed. Their readers are now world wide, and we don’t have any facts except what the author supplies to draw opinions from their material. So many news author/networks need to go back to Journalism school to learn how to write and present information to their expanded audience. (_:

  • Anonymous

    my Aunty Lyla just got a stunning yellow Mitsubishi Eclipse
    Convertible by working from a computer. pop over to these guys J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • one woman

    Yeah, it’s too bad there isn’t a more ethical Democrat running, but at least he is in the ball park on social issues. I’ve seldom been in a position where I’ve had a choice between two wonderful candidates or even one wonderful and one crummy… it’s always been a compromise on something. This year women have to vote for the guy who won’t attack their reproductive rights.

  • Anne Dugan

    I am more and more convinced that Orwell was right – eventually this planet will be run by one world government. Who’s the most likely suspect to take on that role? One or another of the multinationals? Will We the People get to vote for which one? Will the winner be decided by some Board of Directors? Phew! I am glad to be elderly.